Conserving the World’s Last Great Forests

After centuries of heavy natural resource extraction and use, less than one-quarter of the world’s original forest cover remains intact today. A few large forests, however—such as Canada’s boreal forest—contain major expanses that are still relatively undisturbed. Maintaining these intact ecosystems is crucial in both preserving global species and mitigating the effects of climate change.

However, development has pushed further north into the heart of the boreal each decade, and already an area larger than Texas has fallen to industrial development. In order to best preserve large portions of Canada’s intact boreal while still allowing for economic opportunities, Conserving the World’s Last Great Forest Is Possible: Here’s How offers a solution-based approach to conservation in the world’s largest remaining intact forest.

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Summary of Recommendations

The science panel report looks at the recent research on the health of the boreal and provides a set of clear, science-based guidelines for balancing conservation with development in the boreal.  They include:

•    At least 50 percent of the boreal forest region should be permanently protected from further development to maintain current ecological processes and wildlife species.
•    Industrial activities on boreal lands outside of those where development is prohibited should be carried out with the lowest possible impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem.
•    Land-use planning should precede decisions regarding industrial development in the boreal and must be led by local communities. Particular attention must be paid to the views and concerns of Aboriginal communities in the region.
•    The impact of development and other industrial boreal land use should be rigorously monitored and regularly and meaningfully reviewed by independent experts.

 Photos (click to enlarge)

Photos are available for media use on a one-time basis for the purposes of covering the content of this report. Photos may not be copied or redistributed without the permission of the photographer.

Oscar Lake, Northwest Territories
Credit: D. Langhorst

Boreal lake in northern British Columbia
Credit: David Nunuk

Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories
Credit: Steve Kallick

Boreal wetlands in the Northwest Territories
Credit: Chad Delany

Maps and Infographics (click to enlarge)


Common species’ migrations of the boreal forest:


Maps (Credit: Global Forest Watch Canada)

Industrial disturbances within the boreal forest:

Current and potential hydro dams in Canada:

Wetlands within Canada’s boreal forest:

Boreal river flows:

Atlantic Salmon populations and health: